Athletics News

Dan Dabrowski placed sixth in national competition with throw of 50.97 meters.

Dan Dabrowski placed sixth in national competition with throw of 50.97 meters.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

In search of community, discus thrower finds success.

When Dan Dabrowski graduated from Harbor Creek High School in 2020, he had no intention of joining Penn State Behrend’s track and field team. In fact, he didn’t plan to attend Behrend at all and instead was headed for University Park—until COVID-19 changed things.

Like many students in the early part of the pandemic, Dabrowski struggled to make connections when everyone was masked and gathering was not permitted. But he was determined to make the most of his college experience.

“I thought, if I’m going to be here, I have to find a way to get involved and make the best of the situation,” he said. He was a standout swimmer in high school, but a shoulder injury prompted Dabrowski to pursue Option B in college: track and field. He joined the team as a walk-on thrower.

“When he contacted me about joining, he didn’t have standout marks, but he was taking time to really focus on discus while the world was shut down,” said Greg Cooper, head track and field coach. “He sent a video of himself throwing, and that made me excited to get him on the team.”

“Discus Dan,” as he would soon become known, went all-in on throwing. He practiced for hours on end, perfecting his form and technique. He went to strength training daily. He filled his free time throwing during that first long, tedious year of the pandemic.

The foundation Dabrowski built led to his first appearance at the 2022 NCAA Division III national championships, where he finished eighth with a throw of 49.73 meters. Last year, he placed sixth in national competition with throw of 50.97 meters. He’s looking forward to this year’s outdoor season—his last—before he graduates in May with a degree in Finance and a minor in Applied Economics.

Behrend Magazine talked with Dabrowski about how his quest for connection led to such remarkable athletic achievement and about competing at the national level in discus.

What does it take to be a good discus thrower?

Strength and technique. Strength is built in the weightroom by lifting heavy and with a purpose. Technique is something you develop by throwing a lot, drilling outside of practice, and constantly reviewing your throw and trying to find the right body position. In discus, power comes from the legs and rotation of the body. It’s not a natural movement, so you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Is there a secret to a good throw?

No. It’s just being consistent and putting your time in at the weight room and in practice. You get out of it what you put into it. To improve, you need to become a student of the sport. I spent hours and hours studying discus and other throwers’ techniques.

What do you enjoy about it?

Of course, I love competing, but I find throwing in general to be calming and peaceful. I sometimes throw just for fun with no goals. And I like the team. When I started, the seniors were great and welcomed me and provided the community that I was looking for. Now, as a senior, I try to do the same for new teammates.

What do you wish people knew about student athletes?

Sometimes people think Division III athletes are inferior to athletes in higher divisions, but we work just as hard, are just as competitive. And, we’re expected to keep our grades up, and that doesn’t mean just passing.

What do you like to do outside of athletics?

I like to be with people and to stay busy, so I go to a lot of Behrend athletic games, attend School of Business events, and am active in Chi Alpha. I also work at Luden’s Financial Services in Lawrence Park.

What are your goals for this year’s outdoor season?

I just hope to keep improving, both in the circle and out of it. Of course, I’d like to go to nationals, which is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this year.

Anything else you want to add?

I feel fortunate to have spent the last four years working with great coaches and student-athletes who have given me the knowledge, wisdom, and resources I needed to become the best I could be.

Barger, Perritano Retiring

Two longtime Behrend head coaches—Dan Perritano, men’s soccer, and Jeff Barger, tennis—have announced their retirements.

Barger, who was the all-time winningest Behrend coach for both men’s and women’s tennis, retired in December. During his twenty-five-year coaching tenure, he won a combined twenty-two Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) Championships and was named Coach of the Year seventeen times.

Barger led the women’s tennis team to fourteen conference titles, including the most recent title in 2020. From 2004 to 2011, the team won seven straight championships. On the men’s side, Barger led the Lions to eight AMCC titles, including the last one in 2023.

After thirty-one seasons at the helm of the men’s soccer program, Perritano will retire in May. He began his coaching career at Behrend as the men’s soccer head coach in 1993. In 1995, he took on double-duty, also becoming the women’s soccer head coach.

During his nine years as the leader of the women’s program, Perritano tallied 109 victories, guiding the team to a 36-game winning streak to start the league with four consecutive AMCC titles (1997-2000). As the women’s coach, he propelled the program to three ECAC bids and its first-ever appearance in the NCAA DIII Tournament, while leading the team to seven winning seasons.

Just before the 2004 season, Perritano stepped away as women’s soccer head coach to focus solely on the men’s program. During his tenure, the men’s soccer team earned ten conference titles, ten ECAC bids, eight NCAA DIII appearances, one ECAC Championship, and four AMCC regular season championships. He was named AMCC Coach of the Year three times.

Season Report

Highlights From the Fall Athletics Season

AMCC Champs—Women’s Cross-Country:
The Penn State Behrend women’s cross-country team picked up its thirteenth—and fifth straight—overall AMCC Championship this season. Junior Olivia Nola won the AMCC individual title with a winning time of 23:10.76.4. Nola earned her second AMCC Runner of the Year accolade. Nola went on to place thirty-first at the NCAA Regional DIII Championships, earning All-Region honors.

AMCC Champs—Men’s Cross-Country:
The men’s cross-country team won its fifteenth–and fourth straight—overall AMCC Championship title. Behrend had eight runners in the top ten, including the individual winner Kody Klein. Klein won the 8K race in 26:10.29 to be named the AMCC Runner of the Year for the second straight year. Klein finished the season at the NCAA DIII Regional Championships, placing twentysixth and earning a spot on the All-Region Team.

AMCC Champs—Women’s Soccer:
Women’s soccer won its sixteenth overall AMCC Championship in 2023 and was named AMCC Regular Season Co-Champions with Pitt-Greensburg. Behrend tied Pitt-Greensburg in the championship game and defeated the Bobcats 3-0 in penalty kicks, advancing to the NCAA Tournament, where Behrend fell to Rochester. The Lions had nine players earn All-Conference. Three players were selected All-Region, while Trinity Prestash earned USC Scholar All-Region accolades. Kristi Buckenheimer and Rachel Sickeri also earned ECAC honors.

AMCC Accolades and Honors

Runners of the Year: Olivia Nola, Kody Klein (cross-country)

Co-Defensive Player of the Year: Justin LeDonne (men’s soccer), Kristi Buckenheimer (women’s soccer)

Newcomer of the Year: Rachel Sickeri (women’s soccer), Tamanna Sharma (women’s tennis)

Coach of the Year: Greg Cooper (men’s and women’s cross-country), Patrick O’Driscoll (women’s soccer)

By the Numbers

All-Conference Athletes

  • Cross-Country: 11 men, 5 women
  • Men’s Soccer: 10
  • Women’s Soccer: 9
  • Women’s Tennis: 6
  • Women’s Volleyball: 3
  • Men’s Golf: 2

AMCC Runners Up

  • Women’s Tennis
  • Men’s Soccer
Rich and Diane (Metzgar) Doane, 1985 graduates, first met in the original Erie Hall. They made a gift in support of the new Erie Hall and returned with their family last fall to see their gift recognized in the Doane Family Lobby.

Rich and Diane (Metzgar) Doane, 1985 graduates, first met in the original Erie Hall. They made a gift in support of the new Erie Hall and returned with their family last fall to see their gift recognized in the Doane Family Lobby.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Memories of Erie Hall Inspire Gifts

In 1949, when the Behrend Center set out to raise the $150,000 needed to build Erie Hall, it became a community effort. In the first day of fundraising, the campus raised more than $27,000. Support came from both individuals and local companies.

Once completed, Erie Hall quickly became a multi-use facility, housing classrooms, faculty and staff offices, a gymnasium, a stage, and a student lounge. For many years, it was the site of Behrend’s popular Snowball Dance, and the annual Homecoming Dance was the setting for at least one blind date that led to a decades-long marriage.

Clifton (Clif) Merchant ’58 was a first-year student at Behrend before transferring to State College. In his second year, he came back to campus for homecoming weekend, including the dance in Erie Hall. His date for the evening, arranged by a friend, would become his wife of 58 years, the late Linda Hamer Merchant ’59.

Fast forward to 1981, when Diane Metzgar, a member of the women’s basketball team, was working in the equipment room and lent a basketball to Rich Doane. When he tried to return it later that day, she was already gone, so he sought her out that evening to return it to her, personally. That chance encounter led to marriage for the 1985 graduates.

Reflecting on their memories of the original Erie Hall, the couple made a gift to support Behrend and the new Erie Hall fitness and recreation center. That’s the story behind the naming of the main thoroughfare in the new building: the Doane Family Lobby. The support of yet another family is also reflected in the naming of the John and Judith Cipriani Family Welcome Desk. John Cipriani is a 1958 graduate, as was his late wife, Judith. In the 1950s, he served as president of Behrend’s Student Government Association (SGA).

As the original Erie Hall was removed and the new Erie Hall was under construction, Behrend’s Development and Alumni Relations team heard from countless alumni who shared memories of that first facility built with community support.

If you have fond memories of the original Erie Hall, you might consider turning those memories into support for the new Erie Hall to benefit future generations of Behrend students. A member of Behrend’s Development team can talk with you about supporting the Erie Hall endowment, naming opportunities in the building, and other giving possibilities. Contact Britt Daehnke at [email protected] or Dave Johnson at [email protected].

Hall of Fame Class of 2023

Inducted into Penn State Behrend’s 2023 Athletics Hall of Fame were, in alphabetical order, Clay Altemose ’13, men’s swimming; Matt Bittner ’13, baseball; Russ Conley ’13, men’s basketball; Jake Gamble ’13, men’s soccer; Dennis Grace ’73, men’s soccer (inducted posthumously); Victoria Harwood ’13, women’s track and field and cross-country; Ryan Jacobs ’13, baseball; Ali Khan ’13, men’s water polo; Ryan Kragnes ’13, baseball; and Valerie (Wagner) Haney ’13, women’s soccer.